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Siemens will be the first global manufacturer making use of 3D technology to print spare parts for gas turbine.


GE Aviation is planning to mass produce a metal component - fuel nozzle for the new Leap engine for the Boeing 747 MAX and A320neo airbus.


Rolls-Royce planned to 3D printed components for its jet engine.


Medical Sector is expected to 3D printed an organ - like liver and eyes.


Food Sector - 3D printed pizza, chocolate with your face.



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First known stereolithography rapid prototype system (3D Systems)


Everyone has been turning to 3D printers as of late since they have become more readily available for their various projects. These hobbyists have been creating some very (and even controversial) interesting things, including everything from custom smartphone cases to fully functional firearms. It’s interesting to note that before this printing revolution however, the technology was used (as early back as the 80’s) primarily by engineers for modeling and fast prototyping of parts through stereolithography additive manufacturing. Since those days, the technology has exploded and has expanded into several new forms including laser sintering, fused deposition modeling and electron beam free-form fabrication. With all of that new technology currently on the market, it is interesting to see what engineers are doing with those advancements.




Area-I’s PETRA Unmanned Aerial System.


Aerospace engineering firm Area-I has collaborated with Solid Concepts to design a new 737, however this one is not designed to carry passengers but rather as a test model to simulate real-world aerodynamics. Area-I’s PETRA (Prototype-Technology Evaluation Research Aircraft) UAS was designed to bridge the gap between wind tunnel simulation and manned flight tests. The plane was features real working ailerons, control surfaces, flaps and even a fuel tank using Solid Concept’s SLS printers.




3D-Micromac’s Micro-Laser Sintering Technology.


Not all projects and prototypes need to be on a large scale. For this purpose, 3D-Micromac AG has partnered with EOS GmbH to develop their Micro-Laser Sintering Technology. Essentially, their additive manufacturing process (fusing metal powder using a laser to create one layer at a time) is the same as its larger brother just only on a smaller scale. The tech is able to create tiny working gears and other complex metal shapes that will enable researchers to design almost anything at small scales, including miniaturized robots.




ID4A’s 3D printed Tractable Structures.

LA-based architectural firm ID4A has engineered a way to 3D print pliable, readjustable rigid structures. The company’s ‘Tractable Structures’ are printed using polymers and composites to create a substance that can be transformed into the desired shape. Once the shape is achieved, it becomes a fixed rigid structure using robotic manipulations to actually form the complex shapes, 3D vectoring networks and sophisticated algorithms that transforms the material into pre-programmed ‘formal states’.




Cartesian Co’s EX1 printing method puts a circuit board on any surface. This is a circuit on paper!


Some engineers are using 3D printing technology to turn ordinary objects like fabric and paper into functional electronics. This is the case with Australian-based Cartesian Co with their EX1 3D printer. The printer will not create conventional 3D objects like traditional 3D printers, but rather creates a 3D printed circuit board on almost any material, including fabrics and paper. Their printer works by layering silver nano-particles onto any surface using an inkjet printing process, after which, components can then be soldered to it.




Viterbi School of Engineering’s Mask Projection Stereolithography (high-speed fabrication).


While engineers are indeed using 3D printers for creating interesting projects, they are doing it (in most cases) very slowly as the printers are not known for their speed. In order to circumvent that issue, engineers from the Viterbi School of Engineering have revamped the 3D printing process known as mask-image-projection-based stereolithography. Instead of creating a single mask (or piece of 3D image) and then build upon that layer, their method creates a layer on both sides of the mask (bottom-up projection), thereby speeding up the process from a day to just a few hours.




GE Research’s Cold Spray additive manufacturing technology.


Not every machine is built to last and as a result, their parts need to be replaced. Some of those parts are difficult to fix and almost impossible to gain access to. Engineers form GE Research however, are looking to make it easier to accomplish those feats using a novel additive manufacturing approach known as ‘Cold Spray’. The technique involves spraying metallic powders through a compression nozzle at extremely high velocities. The part that needs fixing accumulates those powders on its surface, which begins to the shape of the part. This allows engineers to ‘recreate’ the undamaged part using the same material it’s manufactured from.




PARC’s Automated Fixture Configuration software for rapid manufacturing.


While #D printing allows engineers to create rapid prototypes of objects, it is limiting when it comes to manufacturing that object in large quantities. This usually entails specific knowledge of the materials used, geometries of the object and the manufacturing processes. To help ease those decisions, engineers from PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) are developing software tools that will automate those decisions. While 3D printers using a myriad of different materials can easily make uniquely shaped objects, the same cannot be said for traditional manufacturers, which are limited in scope when it comes to the ‘material pool’. The engineering team has considered those limitations and has built a prototype system that’s able to reference the materials used and their properties from most 3D printers currently found on the market, which will help novice makers make critical decisions before sending their designs off to the manufacturer for mass production.




MarbleEcoDesign’s Marble 3D printer.


In an effort to reduce the waste material and potential environmental hazards associated with quarrying marble, engineers at MarbleEcoDesign have designed a way to use marble dust and use it as an extrusion material for 3D printers. The engineers, with help from Design Lab Frosinone, combined the marble dust with a photo-reactive polymer to create the rather unique filament. According to MarbleEcoDesign, they were able to create marble-based gears and other objects using the Fused Filament Fabrication technique at a resolution of 0.05mm!




ESA looks to 3D print lunar base.


In what has to be one of the biggest 3D printing ambitions engineers are looking to tackle, will not take place on earth but rather the moon. Engineers from the European Space Agency along with architects from Foster + Partners, are looking to 3D print a lunar base using material found on the moon itself. The engineers have been developing their moon-material method by using a Monolite D-shape printer along with an array of printing nozzles to spray a binding agent onto simulated lunar material. The material is built layer upon layer until the desired space and shape are achieved, in this case a catenary dome design devised by the architects. To get the lunar material into a printable state, the engineers first mix the material with magnesium oxide, which turns into a paper like material that can be extruded through the printer’s nozzles. For structural rigidity, the material is then sprayed with a binding salt that converts the material into a stone-like solid. Why bring your habitat when you can build it?




NASA/Aerojet Rocketdyne’s rocket engine injector.


Getting the ESA’s 3D printer to the moon could involve being transported on a 3D printed rocket. Engineers from NASA and aerospace firm Aerojet Rocketdyne have recently successfully tested their 3D printed rocket engine injector and have found the part to be equal (and in some cases greater) to those that have been traditionally manufactured. Engineers manufactured the part using the selective laser melting manufacturing technique, which uses lasers to melt metal powders into 3D structures. Their success could lead to whole rocket motors that could be printed cheaply but still be mechanically sound.


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Blink and you'll miss it. Every year Google release their emotionally charged 'Zeitgeist' video summing up the major highlights and milestones of the last 12 months. This year Pope Francis' election, Malala Yousafzai's speech at the UN and the passing of the great Nelson Mandela are just some of the moments that made 2013. So enjoy the video and watch carefully as 3D printing also features (at 0:54) as one of the major tech highlights for Google in the last year.



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Searches for 3D printing have exploded in 2013 with China and other Asia countries leading in the growth in volume. The two graphs below taken from Google Trends illustrate just what a dramatic uplift this year has seen.

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Pensa Labs’ DIWire

An NYC-based design firm is looking to bring about the first ever tabletop CNC wire bender that can be used for multiple purposes, including prototyping, art and even surgical implants (among a host of other uses). Pensa Labs designed their DIWire machine to convert lines into precise bent shapes using wire or plastic, which can be done repeatedly and accurately. The company uses a straightforward software interface that allows users to draw in 2D using a single line, which can then be ‘dragged and dropped’ as SVG files into the software’s ‘bend’ function. The software can be adjusted for wire thickness and type before being sent to the DIWire machine. The software interface is so simple that users do not need any programming or CAD skills to design their bent wire projects. The machine itself features and adjustable feed system that allows users to use different gauge wires and allows users to swap out the bend heads to accommodate that thickness. It also has an extend surface that can handle just about any length of wire or plastic, making it convenient for using one length of wire for multiple bend patterns. For projects that are more industrial the machine can be embedded into a table, allowing for greater material support. The company has also created a series of clips (parallel, perpendicular and angled) that help keep projects assembled, negating the need to solder or weld hold points (however, a little reinforcing never hurt). Pensa Labs is currently crowd funding their DIWire CNC wire bender on Kickstarter for full-scale manufacturing of their machine and have already surpassed their goal of $100,000 with 14 days left to go. Those who want to get their hands on one can pledge $2,500 or more with delivery expected by July of next year.



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